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Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Although chemotherapy kills or disables cancer cells, it may harm some normal cells in the body and cause side effects.

Most side effects occur during treatment and begin to go away shortly after treatment ends. Others can last for months or even years.

How common and how severe the side effects are depend on the chemotherapy drugs used.

Before you begin chemotherapy, talk with your health care team about possible side effects and how to manage them. Also ask whether you need to have someone drive you home after each visit.

Learn about short-term side effects of chemotherapy.

Learn about long-term side effects of chemotherapy.

Easing worries about chemotherapy

It’s normal to worry about possible side effects of chemotherapy.

Talk with your health care provider about your concerns. Your provider may be able to suggest a hospital social worker, patient navigator, psychologist or support group to help ease anxiety related to chemotherapy (or having breast cancer).

Learn more about support groups.

Managing side effects

Once you begin chemotherapy, let your oncologist or nurse know how the sessions are making you feel. They may be able to treat or prevent many of the side effects. Or they may be able to change your treatment plan to try to reduce them.

Learn more about managing side effects of chemotherapy and other breast cancer treatments.

Susan G. Komen® educational resources

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with breast cancer or feel too overwhelmed to know where to begin to gather information, Komen has a Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Chemotherapy and Side Effects resource that might help.

You can download and print it to take with you to your next doctor’s appointment or you can save it on your computer, tablet or phone using an app such as Adobe. Plenty of space and a notes section are provided to write or type the answers to the questions.

There are other Questions to Ask Your Doctor resources on many different breast cancer topics you may wish to download.

Susan G. Komen® Support Resources

  • Do you need help? We’re here for you. The Komen Patient Care Center is your trusted, go-to source for timely, accurate breast health and breast cancer information, services and resources. Our navigators offer free, personalized support to patients, caregivers and family members, including education, emotional support, financial assistance, help accessing care and more. Get connected to a Komen navigator by contacting the Breast Care Helpline at 1-877-465-6636 or email helpline@komen.org to get started. All calls are answered Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m to 7 p.m. ET and Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. Se habla español.
  • The Komen Breast Cancer and Komen Metastatic (Stage IV) Breast Cancer Facebook groups are places where those with breast cancer and their family and friends can talk with others for friendship and support.
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

Updated 04/07/24